Marc and Sue have a research company and are quite involved in a project right now and with the deadline looming, I am now doing my walking tours solo. Seems a lot of the social life here revolves around dinner out, so looks like I will be checking out the local restaurants most nights this week as they have kindly added me as a tag along each evening. It is a good way to meet friends and get to know the favourite eating spots.
|My Casita - view from the kitchen|
Let you tell me a bit more about my digs. I rented via the Home Away website (www.vrbo.com), which is an Air B&B like site. I had decided to rent a 2 bedroom as several of my friends and even adult children were planning to visit. As fate would have it, each one of my potential guests ended up having something else crop up and so I am on my own in this huge 2 bedroom apt. Lesson learned, don't count on guests coming, nor rent more space than I need in future.
|My Casita - view into the kitchen|
That said , it is a cute and colourful place and I am happy to be here. The casita is one of 3 sharing a private courtyard behind the big locked front doors. The other 2 are smaller with one bedroom each - both cute as a button and unoccupied this month. I am alone in this big casa. November is low season. Apparently it is hard to find accommodation for the Jan - Mar timeframe, unless one gets on it really early. Each of these 3 casitas are booked solid from January onwards. Many folks come back to the same place year over year so pickings are slim. If I decide to winter here next year I will have to get on it early.
I am happy to say that I am keeping with my plan to write until mid day before venturing forth to explore. Yesterday, my walk about focus was on making sure I could find my way around my area and to have a good look at some of the more local buildings and sights.
San Miguel is a city of cobblestone streets with both the sidewalks and roadways made of stone. I was amazed when I arrived at how rough the roads were for the taxi. The heritage minded folks are working to keep pavement out of SMA. The stone roads slow down the traffic for sure. One difference of note here is that cars will stop and let pedestrians cross mid street - something unheard of in Toronto. I am told that this is true only of drivers from SMA - not Mexican tourists up from Mexico City and I should check the licence plate before assuming a car will stop. I think it easier to assume they won't stop. The pace of life is so slow here that no one is in a hurry - even the drivers.
|Cobblestone roads are really uneven.|
Walking is a bit treacherous here as I was warned by Sue - she herself has had a spill when walking the streets. The uneven cobblestones plus the hazards on the sidewalk (uneven surfaces, narrow sidewalks and dark streets at night) make falling a real danger if one does not walk with face down to see what lies under your next step. Sidewalks are not as we would know them. They are little more than a raised bit of cobblestone at the side of the roadway, usually no more than a foot and a half wide and sometimes with holes bit enough for a foot to fall into. Last night, one of our dinner companions fell on her walk to the restaurant and the same night, on my way home, I saw another lady face plant into the road after she misjudged the distance of the step down on the sidewalk at a driveway.
SMA is known for the Instituto Allende, which originally was the summer home of the De la Canal family - one of New Spain's richest families and a prominent SMA family of the day and through the centuries following. The Instituto is located in an enormous complex, which the De la Canal family built as a retreat and hacienda. The old house is filled with various courtyards, a private chapel with colonial era frescos, modern art gallery and restaurant. In 1951, it was converted into an art institute which offers courses in silverwork, ceramic and Spanish, attracting hundreds of students each year.
I also checked out the Parque Juárez, which sits in behind and just to the east of the Instituto and the Rosewood Hotel (San Miguel's 5 star hotel and luxury townhomes development). The park was originally created in the 20th century, designed in the French style with wide walkways surrounding squares of formal gardens, fountains, reflecting pools and of course trees. This park was refurbished during SMA's 100th anniversary and now has a huge children's playground, Basketball courts and some exercise stations.
|The view to the west looking down Pila Seca (street)|
Behind each of these doors is a beautiful courtyard. You need to look closely to see which are homes and which are businesses.
This is the view from the doorway inside the boutique hotel which is the door sitting at the left foreground in the picture above it. Streetside homes and businesses are unassuming and understated. Beautifully simple with an artistic flair based in colour and elegant design.
The hotel courtyard features a lemon tree and greenery and is so inviting. This is a very typical sort of view you see if the doorway is open and you are able to look inside.
I could post 2,000 pictures like this one and each uniquely beautiful - yes, actually 2,000! According to some literature I was reading there are 2,000 doors in the historical part of SMA with 2,000 courtyards behind them!
This is SMA's Pocket Theatre which has 2 - 50 seat screening rooms and features original language art movies with English subtitles with 6 screenings a day. For 10 pesos you get admittance plus a drink and popcorn. Today I will go get a tickets for Saturday to see Amy, a documentary about Amy Winehouse which was showing at TIFF this past Sept. Looking at the building's facade you can scarce tell it is a movie house.
|The Jardin Prinicipal - a meeting spot in the plaza opposite the Parroquía|
I arrived at my meeting place for tonight's night out for dinner - a bench in the Jardin Principal facing the Parroquía. Marc and Sue had invited me to join them for dinner with friends Jacques and René - a long married couple from Montreal who have sold their home and are moving down full time and Daryl - an American woman originally from Atlanta who is a full time resident. We went to a place which is a bit on the high end for SMA but the dinner, Salmon Limoné, was excellent. Dinner with 2 glasses of Chilean merlot was 365 pesos ( ~$30) with tip. I shall have to relook at my budget as my allocation for dinners out will clearly be insufficient if I am to be eating out just about every night! My preference is to eat more at home but it is nice to get out to meet people, so will need to relook at my budget to see how many nights out I can afford.
Day 4 ended with a leisurely walk home and yes, it is safe for women to walk alone at night, at least in this part of town. Hasta luego from San Miguel!